Archive for December, 2009

We were up in snow ghost country, high in the Gallatin National Forest just west, of West Yellowstone, Montana on a mountain called Two Top. Pure white spectacular snow blanketed all the mountain ranges a hundred miles in every direction. http://www.westyellowstonechamber.com

Snow sculpted ghosts

Snow Ghosts Gallatin National Forest

I am normally not much of a snowmobile person but photography can put you in all kinds of situations. Sitting on top of six feet of snow in near zero temperatures certainly can be part of an assignment for any nature photojournalist. Unique scenarios happen each time the phone rings.

Winter photography is always a challenge. Cold weather, extra bright light and blue reflection shadows are a real test for equipment and personal stamina. Long undies, a snowmobile suit and heavy duty Sorrels take care of the human concerns while zip lock bags and body warmth with deep pockets go a long way in protecting camera gear.

Condensation on cameras and lenses can ruin any photo shoot. Just like glasses that fog up when breathing on them or entering a warm room coming in from the cold your lenses and camera does the same. It can take hours to remedy this kind of water situation.

Always keep extra batteries, scan cards or film, if you are not using digital, deep inside your coat.

A disaster situation example for me happened while on a winter assignment in Yellowstone National Park, http://www.yellowstoneparknet.com/ at minus 50 degrees, I managed to keep frost off my camera but later found I lost all the days’ images due to reticulation of my film and lubrication oils freezing from the solidifying temps.

I had great Bison and elk shots with fur covered in thick frost, plus geysers and hot springs enhanced by low lying icy fog. The images turned out fine however, every frame was plastered in pot marked crystals of ice.

It is a hard lesson to learn before having to confront my client and explain why their monetary and time investment in my services failed. They will never call again. The message here is to be prepared for all eventualities and know what you are getting into.

winter landscape

Snow Ghost Formations

Besides the cold, exposure with bright whites and contrasting blue shadows can also be a problem with winter photography. If you just go with your average meter reading from your camera you will get a nice grey tone instead of detailed bright whites for snow.

Your meter is always reading an 18% gray so you have to make some exposure compensations. Usually an added compensation of +1 or +2 stops will give you the detail required in whites. When in doubt and you have a great scene before you it is always good to bracket a bit because you probably won’t get that second chance.

A gray card is your best bet for winter landscape photography. Place your card in the same light angle you are shooting in. Fill the frame with the card and take a meter reading. Then recompose and expose with that reading even though your camera will then give you a different meter reading. It can be a little tedious but it really works.

Since you cannot recover details in blown out highlights it is best to expose for them first hand. A circular polarizing filter can also come in handy. It reduces glare and enhances the sky which can add a little more drama.

To me one of the best rewards of winter photography is the hushed atmosphere that is prevalent in nature.  This sensation is even more pronounced in the backcountry as when sitting on top of Two Top Mountain in the Gallatin National Forest, http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/, surrounded by magnificent sculpted snow ghosts. They speak of a different world wrapped in the purity of white and occasionally share it with those who seek life’s spirits.

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Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or email at: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

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Today, wind has gathered grey clouds with a minus 24 degree temperature.  Silenced by a deep winter blanket of snow Bozeman is quiet today, just after a week of sun and above normal temps. A new season has made its’ transition.

With no large fall landscapes to photograph this year because of an early freeze in October, I had to be content to work on close ups and search for compatible light in my backyard garden last week.

Autumn leaf

Autumn Leaf - Digital Print

Living in the mountains I like the grand vistas of autumn with colorful aspen, maple and cottonwood trees. It is easy to bypass the individual or smaller splash of color. The garden was stark and matted down with only a few leaves hanging on twisted branches.

Twigs rubbing on a wooden shed caught my attention.  A handful of leaves clung to the shrub. Backlit they stood out from the grey weathered shed. It gave me possibilities.

Using macro focus and a very shallow depth of field I isolated a single leaf, blurred the background and utilized the stem, twig and limb structure of the shrub to draw the viewer further into the image. My composition was clean and simple, offsetting the leaf and getting the plane of focus accurate enough to give the setup a three dimensional feel.

Hanging hollyhock leaves

Hanging Hollyhock Leaves - Digital Print

A series of images produced both back and front lit leaves incorporating small branches with an almost bonsai structure setting.

Autumn Leaf 6

Autumn Leaf 6 - Digital Print

The south side of the garden produced a different scenario. A withered Hollyhock with a string of leaves hung from a downed stalk, only inches from the ground. I thought the background was busy however I really liked the colors of border rocks and blue shadow playing on the ground behind the dead leaves. I stayed with the shallow depth of field and used my macro focus on a 200mm lens compressed the image and isolated the subject.

The shrunken leaves reminded me of mice hanging by their tails. I laughed.  Good light was essential to the success of the image. It gave me crisp detail and subtle color that created a late moody autumn shot.

A final arrangement consisted of wrinkled Hollyhock blossoms with only a touch of deep wine red in the gnarled petals. Seed pods formed a bug eyed Preying Mathis in my minds’ eye so I recomposed to depict the essence of the bug structure with an illuminated background.

Bug Bud

Bug Bud - Withered Hollyhocks

Guess, I will call it a whimsical abstract.  Look hard you may see it too.

This weekend having to bare the winter chill I’ll get out there again with camera in hand.  Colors are more monochromatic and compositional lines both sensually soft and with deep shadows, very graphic.

There is no ideal time of day or season to go outdoors and have some fun finding the flow of energies that gather before your lens. It is the visual exercise and the process that counts. You need to stay creative no matter what.

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Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or through email at: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

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Our canoes slipped silently through the chilly waters of the Madison River. A few geese honked overhead and ducks splashed along the shoreline seeking safety in the reeds and overhangs.

The ceaseless current guided our crafts past eroded sandstone and mud packed banks, on this stretch of the river it carved them into endless shapes.

Autumn canoeing on the Madison River

Madison River near Three Forks, Montana

I couldn’t help but fantasize about Lewis and Clark and the Native Americans who also floated and crossed this scenic river in the not so distant past. Not a lot has changed since those canoes pasted this way. The cottonwood trees that bore witness are still standing tall near the water’s edge.

If you read the 1805 journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, http://www.lewisandclarktrail.com, then you know where to find their campsites and place yourself in their footsteps building campfires and setting up their tents. History is all around.

The damp scents of the river and sweet cottonwoods invigorate my senses. It is easy to stay alert, watching for game, or picturing a Hidatsa Indian party riding up on the ridges, looking for Sacagawea. Her kidnapping was the beginning of a venture that led her into the annals of history in the American West and relocated her far from her homeland.

aerial Missouri Headwaters State Park

Missouri Headwaters State Park, Montana

We drifted on the river’s flow past Three Forks, Montana, www.threeforskmontana.com, and on toward the Missouri River Headwater’s State Park. Headwaters, or as most of those who live here, just call it “Three Forks”, is the geographic confluence of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers and forms the headwaters of the Missouri, the longest river in the  U.S.

Each river has its own course flow and visual landscape. Friends and I have had many adventures, seeing the sights, on these clear water tributary trips. Deer, Moose Eagles, Heron and, of course, rattlesnakes are all out there.

Each season different animals appear, just like the transition of wildflowers from Sagebrush Buttercups to Queen Ann’s Lace or the brilliant color change from early green spring willow buds to bright yellow autumn leaves. All you have to do is pay attention.

And these graceful rivers will grab your attention!

Contact Information: Missouri Headwaters, Region 3 FWP Office, 1400 S. 19th St. Bozeman, MT  59715 or call (406) 994-4042.

For Further Information:

Bozeman Chamber of Commerce – http://www.bozemannet.com

Information on the Lewis and Clark Trail – http://lewisandclark.state.mt.us/discovery.shtm

Montana Department of Commerce – http://www.travelmt.com


Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or through email at: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com 

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